In what is becoming an early-Spring tradition here in Fayetteville, City Manager Doug Hewett went on local radio this morning and defended the parking deck project downtown.
It’s making me a bit nostalgic…
I first published my concerns about the project in April of 2018. It must have struck a nerve, because Hewett immediately went on the radio and criticized my take. Since then, the contract’s been amended multiple times, costs have increased by millions of (tax) dollars, and the completion date continues to be pushed back.
This morning, Hewett assured listeners that the deck would be completed “soon,” and that the “big crane” would be returning in April to begin construction on top of the deck. Everyone loves a big crane. Hewett was hopeful that a few floors of the deck would open to allow Woodpeckers employees and Prince Charles residents a place to park.
Notice that the deck will be paid for with public funds (17+ Million). Also notice that the public won’t be parking in the deck when it opens.
But that’s O.K., Fayetteville, because after all this time, we’re still in love.
Love is Patient
The deck was supposed to be finished a year ago. Hewett said the City is still deciding whether it will enforce the $1000/day penalty provisions of our contract with the developers:
Hewett’s not being truthful here. He knows his office won’t push for enforcement. The city has not enforced a single term of this contract in the past. Why would it start now? Instead, the City Council and Mayor will be asked for patience and understanding, and they’ll give it.
Love is Kind
And why would we make our development partners pay us money, especially days after we were ready to pay them nearly $200,000 in interest income?
“Just Because” 😉
The council postponed the vote on the Assistant City Manager’s “interest income” proposal last week, waiting until after Valentines Day to give away your interest earnings to their development partner.
But look at the irony in that. We should be charging these developers over 300k in late fees ($1,000/day from March 15, 2019 to present). Instead, Doug Hewett’s office wants the council to pay them $186,095, for no reason at all. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
Hewett also explained in the interview this morning that the parking deck is being built by “Hay Street Development Pad” (LLC), and not “Prince Charles Holdings” LLC. Hewett said many of the investors are the same, but technically, it’s two different companies.
Remember, we just have to take Hewett’s word for it on this. The public doesn’t get to know the identity of our development partners. It’s not a public record.
So while City Hall and these investors continue their tango into 2020, they’re asking the public to love a ghost.
And by “love,” I mean they’re asking the public to throw millions of tax dollars at a ghost.
If you look hard enough, you can almost see your money floating away…
I have to make a (bad) joke about it because it’s such an inherently awful way to conduct city government. We should not be receiving assurances on the radio from an un-elected city employee about a public-private development deal with secret investors.
It’s way past time to shine some sunlight on this romance. Local media won’t dig into it, and it’s clear you’re not going to get a straight answer from City Hall.
It’s up to us.
Thanks for reading.